Saturday, July 10, 2010

Deception on the campaign trail

Remember how an “Auckland businessman” spent money on a “March for Democracy” to try and force the Government to do what extremist christianists wanted, namely, to allow smacking of children? Well, he’s decided to run for mayor of the new Auckland. Just as with his stunt, he’s not being honest.

He says he commissioned a Christchurch firm to ask Aucklanders what they think about the new “super city” and the process that created and—big surprise—they’re not happy about it. In other breaking news, a day is 24-hours long. Apparently this was supposed to indicate he listens to people. Or something.

He claims to have no affiliation with any political party—singling out the main two parties—but that’s not the same thing as being non-partisan. Very few New Zealanders are members of any political party, but many only vote for one. So, this guy’s being more than a little disingenuous here. He could, of course, back up his claim by revealing what parties he’s voted for in past elections, but I doubt he’d be so forthcoming.

His “policies” are mainly bland, quite a few are banal, but many are deceptive because he implies that his promises aren’t already standard operating procedure at the existing local councils. However, amid all his claims of saving ratepayers money is this: “I’ll hold referendums [sic] on major issues with annual input from ratepayers into spending priorities.”

Does he have ANY idea how much referenda (the plural of referendum) cost? There go his supposed savings! Also, the whole point of representative democracy is that our representatives are supposed to act on our behalf without us having to decide every little thing. He’s talking about ducking responsibility, about refusing to do the hard work of being mayor, and not about “consultation”. For the record, there already is extensive consultation over spending priorities, so he’s not proposing anything even remotely new—apart form wasting ratepayer money on “referendums”, of course.

Nowhere does he say anything about a vision for the new city, about what he’d want do to improve the quality of life in the newly merged city. Does this mean that, like the far right Act Party, he thinks local government should do nothing but a few basic functions?

He mentions as one of his supposed qualifications for the office that he organised that “March for Democracy” stunt. But nowhere does he discuss his ties to extremist christianists, or what role they’d play if he was to be successful. The extremists have a political agenda, and control of government is part of it. Voters have a right to know about his ties to these extremists and how much of their agenda he supports.

Still, the good news is that his deceptions aren’t likely to work, and he’s likely to be one of the also-rans. The sad thing is that he’s not alone in being a terrible candidate—they all are so far. The dangerous thing is that in this fragmented field, a fringe candidate with ties to religious extremists could do better than expected, and his deceptiveness could help in that.

Auckland deserves better: It deserves a dynamic, visionary and inclusive leader, but so far it looks like it may not get that.

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